Who wants to see whales? Gray Whales, Humpback Whales and Killer Whales (Orca) all call the waters that surround Tofino home at some point during the year. From May to October over 20,000 Gray Whales migrate south from the chilly arctic waters of the north to the warmer waters off Mexico. That is a total distance of over 10,000 miles and they pass right by Tofino. As I’m in Tofino with my Mom I thought a Tofino whale watching adventure would be the perfect way to spend a day together. I know we are guaranteed to see Gray Whales, but fingers crossed we also get to see some Killer Whales.
In Tofino whale watching is big business and there are plenty of operators to choose from. For this adventure, we have chosen to go out with The Whale Centre. Located right in the heart of downtown Tofino you can’t miss their building. Aside from whale watching they also offer bear watching tours and a Hot Springs Cove tour. Today it is Tofino whale watching.
Arriving about 30 minutes before our tour starts we sign the usual waivers and get outfitted in our floatation suits. Consider them a cross between a life jacket and a jumper. They also serve to keep you warm when you are out on the water. Once we are all suited up it is a very short walk from The Whale Centre building to the dock where we meet our guide, Howie Tom.
Howie is a local and a true lover of nature. His perfect day is spent on the water guiding these whale tours and sharing his love of nature with guests. Before we see the whales though it is the safety talk.
Now that we are all set it is time for some whales!
It takes about 30 minutes to reach the area where Howie believes our best chance to see the Gray Whales is. Tofino whale watching companies do not use planes to spot where the whales are. You must rely on your guide to know the best spots. Also, all the companies share information as it is a very close-knit community.
We have spotted our first Gray Whale and there are two of them.
We need to keep a minimum distance of 100 meters so as not to endanger the whales. What we look for is the plume of water that is expelled from their blowholes when they surface.
It is a bit overcast today which makes the photos a bit more challenging to take but I made a decision early on that I think you should also follow. Take a few photos and then put the phone down. Unless you have a wicked camera with a zoom lens and you are willing to sit and stare at one location, the shots you will capture are nothing compared to what you see with the naked eye. Plus if you focus on your camera you will miss so much that is happening around you.
Once I captured this perfect whale tail shot I put my phone away.
Gray Whales were everywhere. It was such a rush to see one, then two and then a bunch more at another location. Just simply wow.
When it was time to return back to Tofino, Howie took us by a small rocky island that is home to a colony of California Sea Lions. Man, they are smelly and noisy. Even from as far away as we were you could smell them.
And then we are back in Tofino. Amazing.
If you’re interested in heading out on a Tofino whale watching adventure I highly recommend The Whale Centre. Hopefully, you will get Howie as your guide as I thought he was excellent. Tours depart Tofino at 10:30 am, 2 pm and 5 pm dependant on weather conditions. The boat holds a max of 12 people + guide so big enough for most families and friends to all sit together.
Another recommendation is to visit Tofino in the Spring or Autumn season. The town will have fewer visitors, you’ll be able to pick from your choice of accommodation options and best of all you can be a bit more spontaneous and jump on a whale watching tour or a ber watching tour when the mood hits you.
Tofino whale watching is top 10 adventure for sure.